In their first game since moving into the second slot of the Eastern Conference standings, Charlotte handled the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night at the FedEx Forum, 123-99. The win extends Charlotte's current win streak to four games.
With the win tonight, the Hornets have now won four consecutive games, two separate times in under a month. Steve Clifford's group has now also won eight of their last 10 games.
Charlotte has struggled with Memphis over the past few seasons, especially on the road. The Grizzlies had won the last three meetings, including six of the last seven match-ups between the two teams. Charlotte had not secured a win on the road in Memphis since Feb. of 2010.
As they hit the road for just their second away game since Nov. 17, the Hornets had used good energy to turn superb defense into efficient offense over their three-game win streak. The energy that Clifford had praised after this week's win over Miami was absent in Friday's first quarter.
The Grizzlies strutted out to a 10-0 lead. Charlotte's offense looked lacidasical and their defense looked soft to start the game. Charlotte missed four shots and turned the ball over twice in their first six possessions. While the Hornets began the game 0-of-4 from the field, Memphis attacked Charlotte, got into the paint and made their first eight attempts.
Memphis' physical, attacking style was putting the slumbering Hornets into poor position defensively, resulting in made Memphis baskets or dumb Charlotte fouls. The Grizzlies held a 14-point lead in the early period. Cliffored substituted reserves Frank Kaminsky, Spencer Hawes and Jeremy Lin into the game. Flanked by starters Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum, the group led Charlotte on a 10-3 run to cut Memphis' lead in half.
The free throw disparity was stark with the Grizzlies obtaining 13 shots at the line before Charlotte's first. The Hornets earned five attempts in the final 1:18 of the first quarter as they also made five consecutive field goals to get within just six points as the teams began the second quarter.
Led by their stellar bench unit, Charlotte was the aggressor in the second period, eventually flipping the foul disparity and getting Memphis in the bonus early on in the quarter.
A Jeremy Lamb in-and-out three-point attempt was rebounded by Kaminsky, who then flipped it to Lin, who quickly whipped it to Hawes, who was fouled on his shot attempt. Hawes' free throws with 7:24 left in the second quarter gave Charlotte its first lead of the game. Free throws would reign over the rest of the quarter as the Hornets maintained their lead, 59-54, when the game hit halftime - Charlotte made their first 19 free throws to fuel the charge.
Charlotte held a modest lead after the break but as poorly as they started the first quarter, they put up the opposite effort to begin the second half. Led by Batum to open the scoring, the Hornets rattled home three consecutive three-pointers in the first three minutes of the third quarter.
Walker had a hand in the three-point party as he began to absolutely cook the Grizzlies. Treys, step-backs, finishes in the paint, Kemba was doing it all as he helped create an early 12-0 run. The game got out of hand quickly as like a blink of an eye, Charlotte increased their five-point halftime lead to 18.
Memphis got down to Charlotte and abandoned their style, trying to run-and-gun with the hot Hornets. Like they have been for most of the year, Charlotte was simply better. Kaminsky drained a trey as part of the party and supplied this fanbase with a nice summation of the excitement and new style this team currently lives by.
The rookie's bucket was the 11th three-point make of the game for Charlotte, marking the 10th game this season where the Hornets have had at least 11 treys in an outing - last year's team accomplished that nine times during the entire season.
Charlotte ended Friday's game with a franchise record 17 made three-pointers. Everyone from Aaron Harrison to Tyler Hansbrough (yes) contributed to the effort. Walker led the way with 33 points while Batum hit five three-points to earn his sixth 20-point game of the year.
The Hornets have now won four in a row and allowed 93 points per game and 39.5 percent shooting from their opponents in those four wins. They'll face the Boston Celtics, who are fresh off an overtime bout with the Golden State Warriors, at Time Warner Cable tomorrow night.